Tag: Outdoors

I Wasn’t Prepared

Waaaay back, in another life, I was on a search and rescue team. I’m pretty sure every rescue we went out on was for hikers who were completely unprepared. They didn’t tell anyone where they were going. They didn’t bring any gear or clothing appropriate to the situation. They didn’t have a map. 98% of the time these folks would have been just fine. But every once in a while, the stars lined up and the gods decided to mix things up. A sprained ankle. Ran out of water. Took the wrong trail. The weather took a nasty turn. Nightfall came faster than expected. Suddenly these hapless hikers would be facing a cold overnight stay and cell phones that were dead or out of range. Being better prepared doesn’t guarantee you’ll stay out of trouble. But when trouble comes knocking, you’ll have a better chance of a good outcome.

As you can imagine, I’d generally go a bit overboard with my survival prep back in those days. It would have been a tad embarrassing for a search and rescue guy to get lost and have to be rescued. The team had plenty of gear standards and constantly did pack inspections to ensure everyone was squared away. As the training officer, I had to lead by example so even a simple hour-long hike somewhere required taking a ridiculous amount of gear.

Now that I’m back in the real world and many years removed from those days, my survival prep is considerably scaled back. My approach is to think about the worst possible scenario and make sure I can survive that. I probably get a bit too casual about it at times, much to Mrs Troutdog’s consternation, but I generally believe I’m a pretty safe outdoorsman. (knock on wood)

Yesterday I pulled my smaller dual-sport motorcycle out of winter hibernation and got ready for its first ride of the season. I had to put the battery back in and decided it would be wise to use the tools I carry on the bike, just to be sure I could do it in the field if I had to. Look at how smart I am!

I pulled the tool roll out, unfolded it and… there was almost nothing in it. The wrenches I had were the wrong size for the bike. No Allen keys. The butt of a screwdriver but no bits. What the hell? I have no idea what happened. I honestly couldn’t remember if I’d had everything in there at one time and then cannibalized it for something else? Maybe I’d started putting a tool kit together and then forgot it wasn’t done? Perhaps the sock stealing gremlin snuck into the garage and stole my tools?

Regardless, I’ve been riding around without the ability to fix anything. Had something happened out on the trail I couldn’t have done anything other than hike out. I couldn’t even have changed a tube if I got a puncture. I got lucky.

So now I’m putting together a proper tool kit for that bike. Seeing that it’s spring, it’s a perfect time to go through all my gear and make sure everything is dialed in. Bikes, motorcycles, hiking gear, trail running, fishing stuff. I should probably also go through my vehicle survival bag and repair kit.

How crazy do you need to go with prepping? I think it depends on your skillset for that activity. But generally, I think the right attitude to adopt is: Assume no one is coming. Expect to self-rescue and prepare accordingly.

We all need a reminder from time to time that mechanical things can and do break down. Shit happens. Fortunately my reminder came while I was still in the garage.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.

The mate was a mighty sailing man,
The skipper brave and sure.
Five passengers set sail that day
For a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

The weather started getting rough,
The tiny ship was tossed,
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The Minnow would be lost, the Minnow would be lost.

The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle
With Gilligan
The Skipper too,
The millionaire and his wife,
The movie star
The Professor and Mary Ann,*
Here on Gilligan’s Isle.

Breaking News: I’m A Houseplant

Have you ever been out for a walk in a forest and see a tree with a weird bend and crazy lean angle? Most of the time that’s a tree desperately trying to reach the sun. Your houseplants will turn and orient themselves towards the light. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this… but I am basically a houseplant.

Much to my dermatologist’s dismay, I like the sun. If I didn’t like the mountains and skiing so much, I could see moving to a tropical environment. Shorts, flip-flops, and sitting with the warm sun in your face is just energizing. What I didn’t fully realize is that not only do I enjoy the sun, but I actually require it.

The start of this winter was a bit rough. Late fall turned gray and rainy. The trails turned to muck and there was a constant cloud cover. As fall turned over to winter, nothing changed except it got cold. Just as despair set in, we finally got snow. And then more snow. And some more. Oh, happy days, we were out of the mud season and ready to start winter fun!

I’m too lazy to go back and research the actual weather, but I suspect I’d find that virtually all of December saw no sun. Just gray clouds and snow. As we drifted to the first week of January, there was more snow. Wind and snow for days that prevented even going out and skiing. So, I was left sitting around twiddling my thumbs with limited outside opportunities. As each day wore on, I felt my motivation to do anything disappear. My mood turned south. Not exactly grumpy, but close. By the end of that week I had zero energy. I was literally out of breath climbing the stairs. Mrs Troutdog wondered if I’d caught the ‘omicron. I think I slept much of the day on Thursday. I can honestly say it was the worst feeling of malaise I’ve ever had. I didn’t understand why I felt so completely drained.

Friday morning dawned without a cloud in the sky. There was sun! Just seeing that out the windows put a little pep in my step. I grabbed the hound and went out for a long cross-country ski. At one point I think I stopped in a forest clearing, motionless, with my face turned up to the sun for at least ten minutes. I could feel my mood elevating every minute I was out there. By the time I got home I was happy and blasting ‘tunes at a ludicrous volume.

So there it is. While I always knew I got a little “down” when it’s gray out for an extended period, I’d never experienced it to this extent. I clearly suffer from some degree of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It caught me a bit by surprise. I’m not sure if my need for sun is more pronounced now that I’m older, or this was simply the longest period of no sun I’ve seen?

Regardless, I am officially a houseplant. I crave the sun. I need it. Deprive me of it and I’ll wither and die. Mrs Troutdog helpfully suggested I get one of those U.V. lamps to sit under. That reminds me of those polar bear exhibits at the zoo with the white painted concrete. I’m pretty sure the bears know that isn’t really snow. I am not going to let myself turn into a sad zoo exhibit sitting under a U.V. box. No dammit, I need real sun. Outside.

Next year will be different, unless the global warming prophecies suddenly kick in and we experience the end of winter. Next year there will be several planned desert golf outings or tropical beach trips scheduled around the early winter period. Just enough to keep the batteries topped off and make to the late winter and bluebird ski days.

Like an alcoholic at an AA meeting – Hi, my name is Troutdog and I am a houseplant. I denied it for years, but I have a problem handling the overcast days. I need the sun to survive.

How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!

John Muir

What’s Your Risk Tolerance?

  • I just got back from a four day road trip on the ginormous motorcycle. It was a fantastic trip with a couple of “bucket list” rides. I mentioned in my last post that I almost cancelled due to a threat of inclement weather. Sure enough, day one I got caught in a pretty severe rain and hailstorm. Let’s just say that large hail at 60 mph on a motorcycle hurts! The important part is that I survived and it wasn’t nearly as scary as I’d built it up to be in my head. I rode a few other sections that were high speed highway (70 and 80 mph speed limits) with plenty of large semi’s and some high winds. Serious white knuckle time in the beginning, but I wasn’t thinking about it much towards the end of the day. The point is that the unknown is scary and it’s easy to let that fear get the better of you when try to visualize what it’s going to be like. I guarantee that most of the time reality will prove to be nothing like the horrible scenarios you let run away in your imagination.
  • Which leads me to my question on risk tolerance. Pushing through fear is all well and good, but you still need to do a reasonable risk assessment of the situation. A brand new motorcycle rider attempting a busy freeway on his first day is stupid. The lack of skill makes the risk factor way too high. So how do you evaluate risk? When it comes to hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, I have a reasonable amount of life experience. I’m an RN, was a member of a search and rescue team for years, comfortable with navigation, and feel pretty comfortable with knowing my physical limits. My risk tolerance for hiking in the backcountry is pretty high. Barring serious injury, I’m not terribly worried about surviving a few days if something went wrong. I’m reasonably confident I could put myself in a position to be found or self-rescue. More importantly, I feel like I’m less likely to put myself in a bad position in the first place. Most of our rescues on the SAR team were for people who had no idea they were even putting themselves at risk until it was too late.
  • Which brings me back to the ginormous motorcycle. I have many years of riding experience. Unfortunately most of it was simply commuting back and forth to work. The long road trips are new to me, but I feel like I still have enough overall street experience in those scenarios to make good risk assessments. But what I really want to do is spend more time riding in the backcountry. I have no dirt experience. At what point, when riding by myself, am I being stupid? Most of my fears revolve around being stranded. A crash or other mechanical issue that disables the bike. Dropping the bike and not being able to pick it up. A navigation error and running out of fuel or getting into a scenario I’m not capable of riding. Now what? With the motorcycle it’s easy to go distances beyond a simple hike out.
  • So, do I not go out by myself? Do I simply start slowly and go a little further each time? Do I spend days beforehand making a battle plan with every possible scenario for each ride? At some point that’s no longer fun. On one hand, what’s the worst that could happen? Again, assuming no serious injury, the bike breaks down and I’m stuck. A few days of hiking or until someone finds me. While it would suck, very survivable. It’s extremely rare that someone goes missing and perishes before being found. But that’s not a fair burden to put on loved ones waiting at home, thinking the worst.
  • At what point are you being so cautious you’re limiting activities due to fear of the unknown? At what point are you placing yourself needlessly at risk because you failed to adequately prepare and didn’t recognize that you were in over your head? For me I think the answer will be to go slow and over-prepare initially. Of course I’ll seek out more experienced riding partners… but I don’t want to sit at home waiting for that to happen. The other option is to sign up for one of the various riding schools and learn/improve my dirt skills. I suppose I should do that regardless. How do you evaluate risk? Pro’s/con’s on a spreadsheet? Avoid it at all costs? Just do it and whatever happens, happens? I’m honestly curious how others evaluate risk?

Song of the day: Lily Allen | The Fear

Is That A Key Fob In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

Cool things, random thoughts, advice, and independent thinking from someone who’s been around the sun a few times.

  • I have a small rant. Ok, I rant about a lot of things, but this time I mean it. What is it with the giant car key fobs that weigh like two pounds? I drive an older truck and it has a normal key and a tiny little fob to do the lock/unlock thing. I can also, gasp, just use the key if I don’t want to carry the fob. My wife has a newer vehicle with the fancy keyless, pushbutton start thing. Her key fob is ginormous. Do these manufacturers not realize that normal people sometimes do things where you don’t have a huge purse or backpack to store this brick? Like going for a run, a bike ride, or in my case yesterday, cross country skiing. I clipped the massive key fob to the waist belt thing I wear (DONT call it a fanny pack) and skated off down the trail. The damn key fob was so big it kept falling out of the little pocket in the waist belt and dangling on my hip like a giant set of janitor’s keys (hint, foreshadowing). The trail conditions were a bit challenging yesterday and sure enough, my skate skis went out from under me on some boiler plate ice while going ludicrous speed and I landed directly on my hip on that damn key fob. Now, I’m not a tiny fellow so that’s a lot of weight coming down on a hard plastic brick. It was already swelling by the time I got home. This morning I have a hematoma the size of baseball on my hip. It’s time to rise up and rebel people! Just say no to gigantic key fobs!
  • A few days ago I wrote about investigating the Ct and amplification value of the Covid PCR tests. Sure enough, yesterday we got a call from a friend who was in the exact situation I wrote about. Son is coming home from school for Thanksgiving, had a Covid PCR test done before leaving and it came back positive. He’s completely asymptomatic, feels great. If that test used a high amplification (greater than 30) he could have contracted the virus weeks and weeks ago and is no longer contagious. He also could have gotten it a few days ago and is highly contagious. What are the parents to do? (they opted to quarantine him in his room).
  • Is today the big day? Yesterday Sydney Powell said today she’d be filing the first blockbuster, bombshell lawsuit in Georgia. Trump’s legal team also said they’ll get legislative hearings starting today in Georgia and two other states. Georgia came back and said it’s not a hearing, just an informal presentation. The two other states said this was news to them. What a shit show. One of Trump’s biggest failings has always been the lack of someone who can ensure a clear, consistent message that doesn’t contradict what everyone else is saying. Unclear why that wasn’t obvious with the level of media hostility they’ve faced. When you know the media will pounce and ridicule the slightest mistake or inconsistency, it becomes even more important to get the message right.
  • Yesterday, thirty-two people read the words I wrote. Now, in the blogging world that’s a laughable number. But since my usual number is zero, and I often ask myself why bother, that’s huge. Thank you!
  • A compilation of “If 2020 were a…” memes. Because really, 80% of my internet time is only for the memes.
  • If you didn’t like the film “The adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the 8th dimension“, you’re dead to me.

Song of the day: Stick Figure “Weight of sound (live)”

This Time I’m Serious

Cool things, random thoughts, advice, and independent thinking from someone who’s been around the sun a few times.

  • Filed under, “This time will be different”. Yesterday was the first day of the skate skiing season. Two observations. First, I don’t remember being this uncoordinated last year. Zero balance. It felt like I’d never seen skis before. Second, I’m weak like an eighty year old grandmother. And a bonus observation: I don’t remember my ski pants being that snug. What the hell? Why do I keep doing this to myself? At my age I can’t afford to be lackadaisical anymore. Every year I feel my balance and coordination getting worse. My strength is terrible and I’m starting to feel it in my back when doing activities. I have a fantastic home gym, so I have zero excuses. I’m pissed at myself and can’t let this continue. The problem is that I hate working out. As in, seriously hate it. I love sports, just not the gym. Time for me to just suck it up and get it done.
  • It’s always a mystery where some of the decisions come from at our hospital. Clearly some management types have never actually worked the hospital floor. For example, they recently took Coban away in a cost cutting measure. Unfortunately, Coban is a staple of an RN’s daily life. It’s the duct tape of the nursing world. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a miracle substance that sticks only to itself and not the patient. It allows us to avoid using medical tape on frail, elderly skin. We can take it off and not remove half the hair on your arm. For example, just the other day I removed an IV from an elderly gentleman on significant amounts of blood thinners. Since they removed our Coban wrap my only option was paper tape that sticks for approximately 10 seconds and then falls off. I put a dressing on the IV site and he immediately began bleeding like I’d sliced an artery. We’re talking major crime scene – blood all over the bed, the floor, and him. I kept stacking trauma pads on his arm and trying to wrap it up in the stupid paper tape which kept getting soaked and not sticking. I probably wasted twenty minutes trying to solve something that should have taken two minutes. All in the name of cost savings. Sigh…
  • At the moment it’s not looking good for the Trump campaign. Sydney Powell spent the last two days on the news shows talking up the blockbuster bombshells that are going to drop starting today. Meanwhile the Trump campaign issued a statement late yesterday saying Powell is acting on her own and is not an official lawyer for Trump or the campaign. Very curious.
  • Because I am a dork, I spent a bunch of time this morning trying to understand the Covid PCR test and the meaning of Ct and amplification. In a nutshell, it looks like our “positive” results may very often be picking up virus loads so small they wouldn’t be contagious or remnants of virus from weeks prior and the person is no longer shedding. The commonly accepted amplification rate is less than 30. For some reason most of the Covid PCR tests are using 40. Basically the test may not be useful in identifying people who are actually in the contagious stage of the illness. We’re making public health planning more difficult unnecessarily.
  • I have a strange new addiction, possibly related to my ski pants no longer fitting. The other day I had a massive craving for chips. I searched high and low for chips, crackers, anything. All I could find was croutons. I’m now eating bowls of croutons every day. Very odd, I know. I’m a complex creature.
  • I have struggled with golf ever since I started the sport. I was pretty good about taking lessons this summer and made a little bit of progress. Then suddenly it all collapsed. I couldn’t hit the ball more than a few feet in front of me. I’d already committed to playing a round with some friends and was resigned to a miserable day of golf. A few days before our round I stumbled upon something called the “Single Plane swing“. I devoured most of the YouTube videos I could find, and then did the one thing you should never do. At the range warming up for our tee time I decided to try the new method. The first swing… a beautiful shot. Second swing, same thing. I played one of the better rounds I’ve played in a long time. This swing looks and feels goofy. I’m bummed that I discovered this just before winter because my options to practice are limited until spring. It will be interesting to see if this was a fluke or the real deal. Fingers crossed.

Song of the day: The Smiths “Bigmouth Strikes Again”

Remain Seated To Avoid The China Plague

Cool things, random thoughts, advice, and independent thinking from someone who’s been around the sun a few times.

  • Due to the increase in the number of Covid cases, my state has decided to roll back to a modified Stage Two response. The new restrictions include the following:
    – No gatherings of greater than 10, unless it’s for school, business, religion, or political events.
    – Bars, nightclubs, and restaurants can remain open but only if the patrons are seated.
    Science has been wrong this entire time – Covid particles hover about five to six feet off the ground. As long as you’re seated they’ll drift right over your head! This is a tremendous breakthrough! Forget masks, we just need everyone to move around on little low recumbent scooters and we’d stop this virus in its tracks. And we already knew that the ‘rona was smart enough to skip large gatherings as long as they were for an appropriately woke cause, rioting, or looting. Biker events and rallies are not woke and everyone is standing – also known as super spreader events.
  • It started snowing today. The local ski resort web cam shows nine inches so far. It’s fair to say I’m getting a little excited. Come on global warming… don’t let this just be a cruel tease.
  • After spending approximately two hours watching snow web cams, weather channels, and Warren Miller clips on YouTube, I realized I’d left an unfinished item in my Bullet Journalstart workouts for ski fitness. I think I wrote that sometime in June. Ooops. Guess it’s time to put down the pirate booty and actually start working out. Otherwise my fat ass is never going to get up or down the hill.
  • As a healthcare worker I have to wear various types of masks for 13 hours at a time. It’s gotten to the point that the back of my ears are absolutely killing me. Even wearing my glasses is starting to hurt now. I’ve tried various solutions to no avail. There’s complex physics involved, but women’s hair and fashion offer more options to get the straps off the ears than us dudes have. Today I ordered some surgical caps with buttons on the side. I’m desperate. Stay tuned.
  • If you need a smile to finish out your week, watch 10 year old Nandi Bushell rock out to Nirvana. A serious prodigy. The pure joy on her face is awesome. Imagine how happy we’d all be if we could approach our work and hobbies with that level of enthusiasm?

Song of the day: Nirvana – Breed (Live At The Paramount/1991)

The Perfect Weight Loss Hack

Cool things, shower thoughts, advice, and independent thinking from someone who’s been around the sun a few times.

  • Clickbait titles amuse me and I couldn’t resist. Anyway, I’ll reveal the hack over the next few posts. Here’s the first part. Go find a BMR calculator that includes activity level. This one seems to work well. Enter in the data and see what your number is. Now here’s the crazy part – go eat less than that number. I guarantee you’ll loose weight. Boom! Mind blown. More to come.
  • I was fascinated by this article. I had no idea that there was such a thing as the Open Skies Treaty and we actually let other countries conduct surveillance flights over our military installations. I can’t decide if it’s no big deal, or our openness will come back to bite us some day.
  • I haven’t been very good lately at keeping up with friendships. The older you get the harder it is. It’s certainly a perishable skill that I need to work on. Been thinking about it, so I contacted a couple of buddies I hadn’t seen in a while and made arrangements to meet for lunch and a couple of beers. It felt good. Go do the same.
  • Watched “The Dawn Wall” last night. Well worth a watch but not as well done as “Free Solo”. The “rules” for big wall free climbing are unclear and the movie never explains it, so there are parts that may leave you wondering why they’re doing some of the things they do. At any rate, I may have to go dig out the climbing shoes. What could go wrong?
  • I’ve never been a huge fan of Lindsey Vonn. Her persona always seemed very cold. I was more of a Julia Mancuso fan. Lindsey recently launched a YouTube channel. She’s much warmer than I thought and has a dry sense of humor you don’t normally see.
  • I made a huge step in my street photographs. I actually went up to someone as asked if I could take their picture. If you’re not an extrovert this is a very weird and intimidating thing to do with a stranger. Wasn’t a great picture, but I crossed that hurdle.
  • Data tampering? But, they’re scientists how could this be? In related news, U.S. Oct-March temps were the third coldest recorded. But whatever.
  • Both political parties are full campaign mode trying to inflame their bases. Independent of the realties of each sides message, the left has gone full negative by devoting all its time to attacking the president. Traditionally people want to vote for something, not against something. It will be interesting to see what happens this go-round.
  • The Insta360 looks extremely cool. Inspiring enough I may have to dig out the GoPro and film something.

Song of the day: Florence + The Machine “Kiss with a fist”

Notions Of Cool V.016

A random list of things and shower thoughts that an old Gen X dude finds cool or worth pondering.

  • I listened to a pretty good podcast with Renee DiResta about the Russian trolling and social media tactics. The Russian government is clearly in it for the long game. The bulk of their influence happened because they understand we’re all members of one tribe or another – republicans, democrats, car lovers, gardeners, etc… We’re very susceptible to wanting to think like our tribe.
  • I also started watching Amazon’s “The Widow”. I’ve seen the first two. Not bad, a lot of moving parts. Keeping my interest so far.
  • Stumbled upon an intriguing service – Steady MD. Basically an on-line doctor. Communicate to your doc anytime via txt. Interesting idea. The monthly fee adds up to more than I spend in a year on health care, so probably not worth it for me.
  • The 2020 election cycle is going to be a train wreck. A horrible, nasty, divisive train wreck we won’t be able to look away from. A good time to stay away from the standard opinion news sources and do your own research. Whatever side you’re on, challenge your personal mindset. Don’t be a tribal lemming.
  • The icefall doctors have arrived at Everest. The climbing season begins. Not on my bucket list.
  • George Hincapie launched a hotel, “Hotel Domestique”. An interesting post career investment for a former cyclist.

Song of the day: Anna Lunoe “303”